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EDMONTON: Syrian migrants hit by the flu, clog clinics in ER

Syrian refugees hit by 1st flu season in Canada

Health officials estimates half the adult Syrian refugees, most of the children have caught colds or the flu

CBC News Posted: Jan 22, 2016 9:53 AM MT Last Updated: Jan 23, 2016 12:40 PM MT

Many Syrian refugees in Edmonton are experiencing their first flu season in Canada, putting pressure on family clinics and hospital emergency departments.

Many Syrian refugees in Edmonton are experiencing their first flu season in Canada, putting pressure on family clinics and hospital emergency departments. (CBC)

Many Syrian refugees who came to Edmonton as part of Canada’s resettlement plans have been hit hard by the flu during their first winter in their new home country.

Catholic Social Services estimates of half of the adults and most of their children have come down with a cold or the flu.

Michael Di Massa

Catholic Social Services spokesman Michael Di Massa said Syrian refugees are vulnerable to the flu and colds. (CBC)

“They’re just not used to the climate here, so they catch the cold, they catch the flu. They’re not used to the strains of [the] virus,” said agency spokesman Michael Di Massa.

“They’re in a short-term residence, which is probably not helping the situation,” he said. “It’s like kids in school — if you have one kid in the classroom get sick, the other kids might get sick.”

Edmonton’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Christopher Sikora, said the province provides regular checkups and flu shots for all refugees, but with so many arriving in a short time, it’s hard to keep up.

“We have a group of individuals arriving in Canada who have underlying chronic disease, who come from an environment where things weren’t very good, and travelling through influenza (and) gastrointestinal virus season,” he said.

“It’s not every month you’re going to have 450 people come from an unsafe environment.”

Dr. Christopher Sikora

Dr. Christopher Sikora, Edmonton’s chief medical officer of health, says it’s not every month 450 people arrive in Edmonton from refugee camps and war zones. (CBC)

While refugees are screened medically before boarding a plane to Canada, no medical condition excludes them if it does not pose a health risk to Canadians.

Alberta Health Services said it isn’t surprised, as many of the refugees haven’t seen a doctor in a long while and may be dealing with a number of health issues.

Because the refugees don’t have family doctors, they end up in walk-in clinics and emergency rooms, AHS said.

However, doctors and nurses are stepping up, even making house calls, Sikora said.

“Family physicians all across Edmonton are very willing and open to having our Syrian families linked up with them,” he said.

 

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